Wednesday, 23 March 2016

22nd March - They Say There's Always Magic In The Air

The overcast and cold conditions of the weekend lifted at the start of the working week, and we were treated to some sunshine and rising temperatures.  During the morning today this was enough for me to see my first Brimstone butterfly, but unfortunately away from the patch.

It was still sunny and pleasant in the sun by late afternoon and I decided to make the most of it, as the weather was going to revert back to unsettled conditions as we head into the Easter holidays.  This always seems to be the way, but then this year Easter is quite early.

After having covered the woods and the lanes around Lye Way on Sunday I decided this evening it would be worth a walk around the Plain Farm area, I haven't given the area that much attention so far this year, and at this time of year there could be a few surprises.

As I walked up the path towards the cattle grid I could hear the calls of Goldcrests and the occasional burst of song.  I stopped and listened to see if there was any sign of a Firecrest, but couldn't be certain.  I was heading for the small pond, its sheltered there and may be a place to find an early butterfly.  There was no butterfly but I did hear the contact calls of a Chiffchaff, and managed a brief view before it disappeared into the branches at the back of the pond.

Also tucked away under the branches at the back of the pond were a pair of drake Mallard.  They were quite nervous and finally burst from the water only to circle around as I walked away, and then fly straight back down onto the pond.

I walked on along side the Mountains Plantation, and then down the hill past the quarry.  Unfortunately the quarry seems to have had a make over and is now being used to dump waste slurry, I didn't hang about and crossed the road and walked up the hill.  A Brown Rat scurried across the path in front of me and disappeared into the grain dryer.  On either side of the path House Sparrows chirped away, most now settled into breeding pairs, the males responsible for the singing while the females probably sit on a nest.

From the barns the lane opens up, and in the evening sunshine I scanned the fields for Brown Hare with no luck, but what I did hear, and then eventually see were calling and displaying Lapwings.  As they display you can see the unmistakable slow wingbeats and flickering black and white plumage as they twist and turn sometimes in unison

There are a number of theories about how lapwings got their name, but it is thought to be a derivation of "flapwing" or "flopwing." This could refer to their lazy display flight, or to the way they hang their wing, as if broken, to deter predators away from a nest.

Across the field I counted three birds displaying, and a little further on I saw another two pairs displaying in another location.  Last year I found none at this time of the year, so it is a welcome sight to see them displaying and in good numbers over the fields this year.  Not sure why they were not about last year, maybe it was down to the type of crop grown in the fields.

I walked on past the workshops where a Pied Wagtail flew over, and along the lane towards the cottages.  As I reached the line of trees two large raptors appeared, at the time I could only see the long tail, and the wings held out as they soared and my hopes rose that maybe they were Marsh Harriers, but then they turned and I saw the unmistakeable forked tail, and then the lazy wing beats of the Red Kite.

They drifted towards me, and then split up with one deciding to circle above me.

Giving me some lovely views once again and this in the lovely evening sunshine too.

As i watched the Kites I could also see a pair of soaring Buzzards much higher in the sky above the field.  There was then the calls of Grey Partridge as if in alarm and two crashed out of the hedge and flew across the path into next field.  I could still hear others calling so I went to investigate, and as I came through the hedge I disturbed a Brown Hare, and it raced away from me across the field.

This was my first hare of the year, and hopefully there will be better views.  The Partridges continued to call, but I could not find them.  I think they were settled down behind the long grass in the strip that runs across the field.

In the end I gave up, and settled for the fly past I had as I watched the kites.  I carried on down the path, and as I reached the trees and cottages I could hear the "chuckle" of a Fieldfare.  It is normally difficult to find these thrushes in the trees despite their larger size.  This one however was perched at the top of the tree calling in the sunshine.

I walked to the end of the path and then went through the gap to view the field that leads down to Charlwood.  As I walked the path a Green Woodpecker had flown past me calling, and I found it in the middle of the long grass feeding amongst the tussocky grass.

As I watched this bird another called from the line of trees on the edge of the field.

Looking across the field I found another distant Brown Hare, then another three more lying down in the short crops/  At least five individuals, a good count for the day.

I turned around and headed towards the path to Charlwood.  from the bracken and bramble there was a rustling noise, then something burst from the undercover.  At first I thought it was another Hare as it ran from me, but it was very dark, and quite large, and I realised that is was in fact a Fox.

I am quite sure that foxes are not welcome around the estate, especially at this time of year.  While I am convinced there is quite a healthy population of Foxes around the patch, it is not an animal I see that often, I am more likely to hear them at night from the bedroom.  This then was a very welcome sighting, this walk was turning out to be quite eventful.

Things continued in the same vane as I noticed a large bird flying slowly across the field, as I got the binoculars on it I could see it was a Grey Heron.  Again a strange location for an adult bird to be so far from any significant water or marsh.  It headed north in the evening light, and I had another year tick.

Coming out onto Charlwood Lane I could hear the calls of Redwing, and I scanned the field behind the cottage and found a large flock of about 100 Redwing feeding amongst the sheep.

Once again this seems to be, like Andrews Lane and Lye Way a regular spot where the winter thrushes gather as they prepare to make their way north.

I made my way along Charlwood with the sound of a tractor drilling seed in the field to my left, but in the field to my right I could see the sight that lets you know that Spring is definitely here or at least around the corner.  There were lambs in the field, some running around and springing into the air with the joy of new life, others sticking close to the mothers.

i know why the lambs are numbered and matched to the parent, but it is a shame when such lovely new white coats have a large red number sprayed on them.

I made my way to get closer to the lambs, and could see two that were enjoying a game on top of a pile of straw.  The excitement getting to them as every so often they would spring into the air.

It was as if they were fighting for the higher ground, trying to push the other off by head butting.

But it would always end in a spring and a jump as if they play was getting to them.

The first of the year these lambs do not look new born, but maybe up top a week old.

Reluctantly leaving the antics of the lambs I walked on.  The birds now were looking for suitable roost sites and Goldfinches and Greenfinches could be seen flocking together in the tree branches.

I passed one tree that was full of lovely pussy willow buds.

Turning into Lye Way and heading east the sun was behind me and lit the lane and the bark on the Silver Birches giving them a slight golden hue against the silver.

Despite the time of day, I could hear my first Yellowhammer song of the year, two individuals were singing from the wire overhead, but this one preferred to deliver from the branches of this bush.

Once back at the car I decided to drive back along Lye Way and through the farm.  This though did not deliver any new wildlife sightings, but stopping at the gate to the field I had a wonderful view of the setting sun away to the west.

While on the other side, to the east a full moon was rising emerging through the clouds.  This time of year provides the perfect amount of light to enjoy both spectacles by just turning around through 180 degrees.

On the way home I stopped at the pond to look for signs of the Toads but there was nothing showing.  The Mallard pair were in the middle of the pond, I wish they would get on with nesting.

A lovely evening's walk with three bird year ticks, and my first sight of a Fox for a while and the Brown Hares, but the moment that really made me smile and lit everything up was when I saw the year's first lambs.


  1. Great set of photos, Spring is in the air. Lamb shots are so cute.
    Amanda xx

  2. Hi there! I'm at work surfing around your blog from my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the excellent work!

  3. Chris, as usual; excellent blog and images. As a matter of interest, what camera and lens do you usually use. For example, for the Red Kite and Brown Hare images on today's blog. All the best,
    Dave Derrick.

    1. Hi Dave, thanks for the comments. I am using a Canon 7D mark ii with a 100-400 mm L series lens


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